Imagine yourself driving down a Texas freeway. You’re out in the open, away from most of the traffic. There’s an 18-wheeler up ahead, so you move over to pass it. A routine maneuver. But, suddenly, as you’re about to pass, you see the truck’s cargo come loose, slipping off the trailer, and you know there’s no way to avoid it. There’s about to be an impact.
The cargo could be nearly anything, from logs to cattle to construction materials to children’s toys. The point is that accidents caused by overloaded trucks and unsecured cargo happen every day, and the consequences can be extremely serious for other drivers.
If everyone is lucky, no one gets hurt and a crew comes to clean up the mess. But far too often someone is seriously injured or killed, changing the lives of drivers and families forever.
Here we highlight some of the reasons why proper loading of trucks is so critical—and why a trucker’s failure to do it right puts everyone in danger.
Hundreds of Thousands of Incidents
According to a report published in 2016 by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, road debris was a factor in more than 200,000 police-reported crashes between 2011 and 2014. These crashes caused approximately 39,000 injuries and 500 deaths during that time period.
The Foundation estimates that at least two-thirds of such crashes are caused by unsecured loads. While not all of these crashes involved commercial trucks (many accidents are caused by individuals improperly carrying items with their own vehicles or improperly towing trailers), this helps illustrate just how frequently unsecured loads lead to accidents.
Cargo Doesn’t Have to Be Heavy to Be Dangerous
It’s easy to understand how a heavy object falling off a truck bed could crush or otherwise destroy a regular vehicle. But even cargo that doesn’t weigh a lot can be deadly if it falls off a truck. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, if an object weighing 20 pounds falls off a truck at 55 miles per hour, that item has the striking pressure of half a ton.
There Are Numerous Regulations Covering Cargo Loads
Everyone understands the potential danger of loads falling off trucks. That’s why loads a very heavily regulated. At the federal level, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issues Cargo Securement Rules. Their general rule says:
“Cargo must be firmly immobilized or secured on or within a vehicle by structures of adequate strength, dunnage (materials used to protect cargo) or dunnage bags (inflatable bags to fill the space between pieces of cargo or between cargo and the wall of the vehicle), shoring bars, tie-downs, or a combination of these.”
In addition, Texas has its own rules the reinforce and complement the federal ones. For example, under Texas law, the failure to cover and firmly secure loose material is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $400.
If an Injury Occurs, Several Parties May Be Liable
Depending on the circumstances, several parties may be held liable for injuries caused by unsecured cargo:
- Truck drivers could be liable if they fail to ensure that their load complies with all applicable laws.
- Truck companies can be liable if they fail to adequately train drivers on securing loads.
- Manufactures of defective products could be held liable. For example, if a tie-down breaks and cargo spills off the trailer, the maker of the tie-down could be held liable.
Hurt in a Texas Truck Wreck? Talk to Us.
The lawyers of Ted B. Lyon & Associates in Dallas are highly experienced in representing victims hurt in truck accidents. We have successfully handled many cases involving unsecured loads and overloaded trucks. To arrange a meeting, please call 800-TedLyon or email us any time.